December 1, 2011

Building a better thermostat...

The Nest Learning Thermostat.
You can also use a free iPhone or Android app, from anywhere you happen to be, to see the current temperature and change it — to warm up the house before you arrive, for example....

Over the course of a week or so, the thermostat learns from your manual adjustments. It notes when that happened, and what the temperature and humidity were, and so on. And it begins to set its own schedule based on your living patterns.
When you set a new temperature, it tells you how long it will take for the room to reach that temperature, which "is intended to discourage people from setting their thermostats to 90 degrees, for example, thinking that the temperature will rise to 70 faster." That is, it's smart enough to know how stupid we are. I mean, seriously, what is wrong with people?

I can't tell you how many times I have walked into a sweltering classroom and found that someone has set the temperature above 80°, presumably under the delusion that he/she was turning on a more powerful heating process. How can you be teaching/attending law school and not understand what a thermostat is?

68 comments:

E.M. Davis said...

Will the Department of the Interior be able to override your settings?

Sorun said...

The Onion once did an article about my wife and I and our thermostat.

Big Mike said...

How can you be teaching/attending law school and not understand what a thermostat is?

Because you were a history major as an undergraduate?

bagoh20 said...

"How can you be teaching/attending law school and not understand what a thermostat is?"

How can you be teaching/attending law school and not understand what school is for? They don't teach useful things in school. They teach what teachers like to talk about.

Modern education seems designed to train new teachers, not new citizens ready to successfully find useful employment, manage their lives or build things. It's more of an apprenticeship, if you look at what the students must do in order to pass.

MadisonMan said...

I'm amazed you teach in a classroom with a functioning thermostat. Didn't realize they existed on campus.

I always did the wet paper towel on top of the thermostat trick in Grad School. Evaporative Cooling!

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...

I once worked in a part of a factory with ancient uninsulated wooden walls that allowed snow and cold air to blow through rather freely. The gas fired heater was running full blast to little effect, and the new guy suggested turning up the thermostat. Heh.

rhhardin said...

It does heat faster with the thermostat set higher.

You want it to heat until the walls and furniture are at the temperature you want for the room, which means getting the room air higher than that.

Once they heat up, you turn the thermostat down to match.

That happens faster the higher you set the thermostat, because hotter room air heats the furniture faster.

BESr said...

How can you be teaching/attending law school and not understand what a thermostat is?

Because you don't have to actually be that smart to get into or teach law school?

Curious George said...

"How can you be teaching/attending law school and not understand what a thermostat is?"

That's not surprising at all. Now if the question is:

How can you be teaching/attending school and not understand what a thermostat is?"

What a bunch of condescending crap.

Ann Althouse said...

"Because you don't have to actually be that smart to get into or teach law school?"

I think the more precise observation is that people who are drawn into intellectual activities that involve manipulating ideas and words are often abstracted from the concrete realities of the world.

And yet my law school brands itself with the concept "law in action" which is supposed to stress the way things actually work in the real world. But that, of course, can be more of an idea than a reality.

Patrick said...

To be fair, there's a remarkable inconsistency in how thermostats work, particularly in large rooms.

caseym54 said...

Based on observation from over here in the engineering department, I'm not sure most lawyers can operate a screwdriver.

Unorthodox Modernity said...

See:
http://csjarchive.cogsci.rpi.edu/1986v10/i01/p0075p0090/MAIN.PDF

Scott M said...

Based on observation from over here in the engineering department, I'm not sure most lawyers can operate a screwdriver.

Now, that's funny in and of itself, but the first time I read it, I read it as;

Based on observation from over here in the engineering department, I'm not sure most lawyers can open a screwdriver.

Which, somehow, is more funny and bound to leave everyone that's not good with their hands scratching their heads.

MayBee said...

Maybe people are used to being in a car, where setting the thermostat higher blows more hot air harder.

jimbino said...

I think most folks are under the impression that turning up the heat under a boiling pot raises the water temperature and cooks the food faster.

There's a lot of new info to deal with, including:

An aspirin a day is good.
Salt is not that bad.
Coffee is not a diuretic.
Wine is good for you.
Laptops can maim your sperm.
A college degree is a waste of money and time.
American Roman Catholics have been getting the mass wrong for 40 years.

Scott M said...

There's a lot of new info to deal with, including:

Your forgot: Water doesn't hydrate.

edutcher said...

Ah, yes, another use for Artificial Intelligence.

Because we have so little of the real kind.

Ann Althouse said...

How can you be teaching/attending law school and not understand what a thermostat is?

Keep in mind, most of the people in Congress are lawyers.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Will the Department of the Interior be able to override your settings?

Already in the works.

"Smart Meters". Just the beginning.

MikeinAppalachia said...

casey-
To be fair, there are a few engineers that cannot operate a screwdriver. True, they tend to be computer oriented, but still.

bagoh20 said...

Finally the true source of AGW is found - poor education.

Scott M said...

"Smart Meters". Just the beginning.

I had a contractor in my house a couple of weeks ago to give me a quote on some weatherization I need. During the discussion, he mentioned Smart Meters. I told him I already knew about them and wasn't a fan. He seemed confused that I knew and once I told him why I wasn't a big fan, citing remote control of my house's temps, he didn't try to argue the point. He simply said he would get back to me with a quote and left.

He never called back.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

"he/she"?

Who are you kidding? Men don't turn the heat up.

Scott M said...

Finally the true source of AGW is found - poor education.

Well, we know the source isn't Algore himself. Wherever he goes, it becomes frigid. Even in bed next to Tipper.

ndspinelli said...

Attorneys are the smartest, most honest, and certainly the most caring people in the world.

ndspinelli said...

Professor, You should know law students well enough to realize all you have to do is ask the class to turn in the culprit anonymously. Just activate the weasel response they all possess to varying degrees.

ndspinelli said...

Or, you could just rely on the honor system...HA HA HA HA HA.

Ann Althouse said...

"Professor, You should know law students well enough to realize all you have to do is ask the class to turn in the culprit anonymously. Just activate the weasel response they all possess to varying degrees."

1. I think students support other students when the teacher takes an anti-student stance on anything. They have solidarity, so it's ineffectual to turn students against students... even if you want to. Which I don't. Because they'll hate me. Because they have solidarity.

2. I don't think it's students who mishandle the thermostats. I think it's the teachers. I think someone who teaches earlier in the day comes in, decides the room is chilly, cranks up the thermostat, then leaves the room without turning it down. Maybe the room gets up to 72° during that first class, but you come into that room later and it's up to 78°, because it's gradually moving toward the 82° that the thermostat manipulator decided was appropriate.

3. I don't know who turns up the thermostats, but whoever they are, they'd better not say one word to me about "climate change" and "carbon footprints."

4. I keep my home thermostat below 65° in the cool/cold months of the year, and I tend to sit around at home. Teaching is more active, and when you're used to sitting around in 64°, a temperature as high as 70° feels stuffy and de-energizing.

rhhardin said...

The proper way to heat a classroom is to put an ice cube on the thermostat.

Then there's heat only until the ice cube melts, and then it reverts to the originally set temperature.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I keep my home thermostat below 65° in the cool/cold months of the year

Good plan as it will also save you on energy costs. Once you have the ambient temperature of the house, walls, furniture etc at a comfortable temperature, it is not a big deal to raise it just a few degrees.

We set ours to 58 from 9pm to 5am and raise from that to 65 and hold all day. The heater hardly ever comes on at night (meaning it doesn't get below 58)unless the temps outside are in the teens or sub zero ranges. Besides, we are under a big fluffy down comforter at night...why waste the energy and incur the costs in the evening.

ndspinelli said...

I bill out surveillance @ $75/hour. Sounds like a pretty routine assignment.

ndspinelli said...

DBQ, We do approximately the same. We both like it cold @ night but it became critical when my bride hit menopause. The poor woman is like a furnace.

Ben Hammer said...

Physics is hard, especially thermodynamics.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

When I was supervisor in an office environment with 6 other women, there was one lady who would constantly fiddle with the thermostat. She was always complaining that she was cold and would sneak over and raise the temperature in the whole office floor to 75. Everyone was suffocating and complaining.

I had the maintenance staff install an acrylic box over the thermostat with a lock on it, but she figured out how to use a fingernail file and still fiddle with the temp.

We finally had to tell her that either she quit altering and tampering with company property or she would be fired and to wear a God Damned SWEATER!!!

Jeff with one 'f' said...

DBQ, this has been the dynamic at every office that I've worked in. The flipside is that the same women usually sit near the AC vents in the summer and ask to have it turned off because they're cold. While they wear skirts and tanktops.

PatCA said...

"E.M. Davis said...

Will the Department of the Interior be able to override your settings?"

Probably. The State of CA mandates new "smart meters" for electricity and soon gas, with the ability of the utilities to monitor (and control) usage. Only public outcry stopped the installation of utility-controlled thermostats in all new homes last year. Just another way to control the masses...I'm waiting for the next 100-degree day.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"The State of CA mandates new "smart meters" for electricity and soon gas, with the ability of the utilities to monitor (and control) usage. "

Pat....we filed a formal stop order to not have the meters installed. They interfere with other electronics, wireless networks, medical devices and pacemakers and turns out that many are adversely affected by hot temperatures (those that are in the direct sunlight on a 95+ degree day go wonky) and do not read correctly.

There is a class action lawsuit (I think) and we received a robo call the other day from PG&E saying that they and the State are coming up with an alternative solution......probably meaning that they will charge us extra to NOT be forced to have a "Smart Meter"

As to the Smart part. One of my clients went on vacation for 3 months, safari in Africa, and turned off his electricity at the breaker, unplugged all appliances including the refrigerator and freezer. PG&E STILL sent him a bill for over $200 a month for electricity!!! The Smart Meter program was still reading electrical usage.....he refused to pay.

Other people have seen their bills go up by 100% to 200% when the meters are installed.

I'm thinking a really big magnet right next to the meter could help immensely.

theCase said...

Wisconsin Public Service (up Green Bay way) has a pilot program where they’ll provide you a fancy $500 internet enabled thermostat and with your permission, raise the A/C thermostat temp in the summer during peak demand periods.

I got one, but I mainly because I like being able to fiddle with my home temp from work…..

Peter said...

I like the idea of remote-control thermostats, but I'd hope the learning feature could be defeated.

And I'm hardly surprised that people jerk thermostat settings up and down faster than the HVAC equipment being controlled can respond. Although anyone who's taken an engineering course in machine controls would (or should) know better, few take such courses.

Which raises the obvious question: how long will it be before the Dept. of Energy mandates that the comfort range of heating thermostats be limited to 68F max., and the cooling range limited to 78F min.?

And if/when that happens, what clever methods (something more clever than packing ice around the temp. sensor, please) will be used to defeat the limits?

And, what might then be the Draconian penalties imposed to discourage citizens from using these methods?

Kirk Parker said...

rh,

You're on a roll! :-)

However, I have do disagree with your first statement, even though I appreciate the correction to all the Galilean scientists out there. Yes, the thermal gradients within the room will be at a minimum when the surrounding mass is as close to the desired set point as it can get. But, at least with a forced-air system or other point-ish heat source, that doesn't mean that some of the air in the room won't be uncomfortably high during the latter portion of the warmup cycle.

RC3 said...

In many cars, if you crank up the settings the fans will blow more hotter air into the cabin. (Of course there is a huge surplus of thermal energy in the engine compartment.)

So not too surprised that some people are confused about home thermostats / heating systems.

traditionalguy said...

The human mind is still wired to demand an way to application of emergency power in a crisis. It really likes adrenalin excretions.

The stodgy thermostat industry is more into mechanical possibilities and therefore refuse overheat the unit when adrenalin heat is needed.

But learning that is way above most people's pay grade.

Robt C said...

If you have a heat pump, which comes with an auxiliary heating coil for those days when it's too cold outside to extract heat, turning the thermostat to a higher temperature WILL make the room heat up more quickly, as the heating coils will kick in to augment the heat pump. Depending on the thermostat, this will happen if you set the desired temp to four or more degrees above room temp.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I like the idea of remote-control thermostats,

Why?

You like the long arm of the government being able to intrude into your home? The invisible hand controlling your life? Telling you just how warm or cool you can be and when you are allowed to do your laundry or your dishes or take a shower?

Do you also like the idea of the government being able to come into your home without permission and rummage through your refrigerator and pantry and throw out food that they disapprove of? Take away the excess salt you have in your cupboard.

How about the government being able to go through your sock and underwear drawer and confiscate those items that were manufactured by unapproved companies by non union workers and out of non "green" fabrics.

In your medicine cabinet? Your garage? Your garden shed? Looking for contraband light bulbs?

At what point WOULD you object to government control over what you do in your home and how you live your life?

Maybe YOU like this....I don't and will fight it will all of my might... and ammo.

MayBee said...

I have a remote controlled thermostat, but not with a learning feature. I'm not sure I'd love that.

So far, we've escaped the "smart meter" requirement. I don't think there was a single brown or blackout last summer during the hot days, so it seems people are doing a pretty good job being considerate without being forced.

MayBee said...

To be clear, my remote control thermostat is not utility-provided nor utility-controlled.

I got it in part because we forgot to turn off the air conditioner when we left town for two weeks. It's just stupid to pay a CA electric bill to cool an empty house.

Original Mike said...

"...it's smart enough to know how stupid we are."

Nothing is that smart.

Original Mike said...

"I can't tell you how many times I have walked into a sweltering classroom and found that someone has set the temperature above 80°, presumably under the delusion that he/she was turning on a more powerful heating process."

That doesn't happen in physics classrooms.

Sigivald said...

How can you be teaching/attending law school and not understand what a thermostat is?

The problem is not that they don't understand what a thermostat "is".

The problem is that they don't understand how the heating system works.

Which is much less surprising.

Shanna said...

I have a remote controlled thermostat, but not with a learning feature. I'm not sure I'd love that.

I feel certain that the ‘learning feature’ would end up costing me more money, so I wouldn’t be excited about it. I like having control over the thermostat!!!

I'm jealous of people who are actually able to control their office thermostats!!! Ours tends to blow cold air when it's 50 outside.

Original Mike said...

"Only public outcry stopped the installation of utility-controlled thermostats in all new homes last year."

Holy crap!

That's one way to raise the value of the exisitng housing stock.

Original Mike said...

Learning "feature"? That sounds like a great idea. {/sarcasm}

MayBee said...

I feel certain that the ‘learning feature’ would end up costing me more money, so I wouldn’t be excited about it. I like having control over the thermostat!!!

Me too.
I feel certain I would end up in a battle with the 'learning feature', trying to figure out how to override something it thought it learned.

PatCA said...

Good to know DBQ. Too late for me to get rid of my meter, but I'm sure going to monitor the thing.

They installed it, unannounced, while I was out for an hour, which then blew out my air conditioner condenser. Never heard from them about my complaint. I'm sure the gubmint will be much nicer.

Original Mike said...

That's right up there with the refrigerator that orders milk when you're low.

Original Mike said...

"I feel certain I would end up in a battle with the 'learning feature', trying to figure out how to override something it thought it learned."

I read a great article once titled "My TIVO thinks I'm gay".

Original Mike said...

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I read a great article once titled "My TIVO thinks I'm gay".

Me too. Very funny.

BTW: If you hate the ads on the sidebars and in websites....spend some time googling something that you like or interests you. Lately all of the ads for me are about yarn. Very pretty colors.

:-D

Robert Burnham said...

Unfortunately for Nest, however, this is all the thermostat I ever want:
http://desertcomfortmechanical.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/images/old_honeywell_thermostat.305221753_std.jpg And it's in use at this very moment.

On three occasions since we bought our house in 1988, I have stood around, listening to HVAC people try tell me all about how great it would be to switch and upgrade and so on. And I told each of 'em -- don't bother with a sales pitch.

The Honeywell T87 is precisely the thermostat I want, none other.

No batteries, no reprogramming after power failures or when you go away, no rebooting -- just your basic, dependable, utterly, totally, relentlessly retro manual thermostat. (And it costs about 1/10th what a Nest does, too.)

It's one of those things they got exactly right almost 60 years ago (introduced 1953: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honeywell_T87), and can't be improved on.

It's perfect. Why, it's... even in the Smithsonian.

http://www.amazon.com/Honeywell-The-Round-Thermostat/dp/B0000CBJJS
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Honeywell_round_thermostat.jpg
http://pantsinacan.com/2009/02/08/photo-of-the-week-honeywell-t87-thermostat/

http://company.monsterindia.com/hwellin/ : "This Honeywell product is part of a Smithsonian Institution collection of pioneering designs; is featured in a question from Hasbro's “Trivial Pursuit” 20th Anniversary Edition; has had a number of cameo roles, including an appearance in the recent motion picture, Men In Black II; and would span across the United States from the East Coast to the West Coast and halfway back again if the 85 million sold since 1953 were laid side by side. It is none other than Honeywell's The Round® thermostat, celebrating its 50th anniversary."

But I do notice that Nest had the good sense to make their overdesigned but inferior product round, presumably in hopes of gulling the unwary.

I suppose that might fool _some_ people.

Original Mike said...

"Lately all of the ads for me are about yarn. Very pretty colors."

Mine are telescopes. (and a shocking meat video.)

Calypso Facto said...

Then there's heat only until the ice cube melts, and then it shorts out your thermostat so that there's no more heat.

FTFY

I just bought the Filtrete wi-fi version for $90. No learning feature (or obnoxious Apple-esque pretentiousness), thank God. We'll see how it goes.

Hagar said...

I have been told that at the Sandia National Laboraties (very high tech) they solved this problem by setting the real thermostat back in the wall with a hinged unconnected thermostat on the front. Thus the women could twirl the inoperative one to their hearts' content without being able to mess up the system.

Shanna said...

The Honeywell T87 is precisely the thermostat I want, none other.

That’s cute, but I have to say I like my programmable thermostat (which came with the house). I tell it to warm up when I’m getting ready to get up in the morning and it does it. Programmable thermostats were a brilliant idea, so long as I’m the one programming it!

Original Mike said...

Yeah, I like programmable thermostats, too. I don't care about coming home to a (relatively) warm house, but it sure makes it easier to get out of bed in the morning.

But the thought of the utility company having control of my thermostat I find truly shocking. And the thought of the thermostat guessing (er, learning) what temperature I want to be truly dumb.

Shanna said...

But the thought of the utility company having control of my thermostat I find truly shocking.

Yeah, that's pretty much insane. I don't think anyone has tried to do that in Arkansas...

MayBee said...

I read a great article once titled "My TIVO thinks I'm gay".

Oh, that is hilarious!


(DBQ- I've been all about yarn lately, too. The ads I'm getting are so pretty!)

n.n said...

There is a trend to promote abstract thinking while deferring definite judgment to experts. It is an example of post-enlightenment regression, which has been promoted by skewed priorities in our society and specifically in our education system.

This misunderstanding has a perfect analog in our current crisis. A large minority of people believed that redistributive and retributive change would permit them to realize material instant gratification through exploitation of the democratic process.

Fortunately, for them, the accumulation of debt has enabled creation of a virtual economy exceeding 10% of the whole.

Unfortunately, for us, it is not a stable and sustainable state, and there is no evidence that real economic activity will replace it anytime soon, and certainly not at a commensurate rate.

Oh well, an illusion is more appealing than the truth, and it exhibits a superior appeal to emotion.

Mac said...

80 degrees? "I think most folks are under the impression that turning up the heat under a boiling pot raises the water temperature and cooks the food faster." Well said.

By Electrician Norfolk